Burke-Gingras quartet set for Borgata round two

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — Yannick Gingras heads to Monday’s MGM Borgata Pacing Series with no morning-line favorites, but each of his four Ron Burke-trained horses is no worse than third choice in the event’s second of five preliminary rounds at MGM Yonkers Raceway. Among that group is Hellabalou, who brings a five-race win streak to the third of the night’s four $50,000 divisions.

Hellabalou, the 2021 Adios champ, won his first-round Borgata start by a neck over Jimmy Freight and Backstreet Shadow in 1:52.1 last week. Starting from post one, Hellabalou took the lead at the start and never relinquished the top position.

“We had the rail and were able to control the race, but he won pretty easily,” Gingras said. “It looked like they were coming at the wire, and they were, but the plugs were still in. I was more managing (Jimmy Freight) in the two-hole, so I wasn’t going to get beat by him. I think if I turned (Hellabalou) loose at the top of the stretch, he had more than he even showed.”

Hellabalou has won seven of his past nine races dating back to mid-October. Casalinova photo.

Hellabalou has won seven of his past nine races dating back to mid-October. Last week’s appearance was his first pari-mutuel start since Jan. 6, when he captured the Open Handicap at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows. On Monday, he leaves from post six and is the 7-2 second choice in a field that includes fellow first-round winners Leonidas A, the 3-1 favorite, and Idealsomemagic A, who is 5-1.

“He was coming into last week fresh, but off some really good starts in late fall/early winter,” Gingras said about Hellabalou. “We’ve got post six this week, and it would be nice to get him in the race somehow. Whether that’s at the beginning or following cover, we’ll see how it shakes out.

“It’s important to try to get as many points as you can early in the series because then it gives you the chance to maybe get a week off somewhere. Everybody is thinking the same, so that’s why it’s such competitive racing.”

This Is The Plan, an 8-year-old who was the 2021 Borgata champ, represents the Burke Brigade in Monday’s fourth division, where he starts from post seven and is the 5-1 third choice behind Tattoo Artist at 5-2 and Priceless Beach at 3-1.

This Is The Plan was the 2021 Borgata champ. Chris Brokate photo.

Last week, This Is The Plan made his seasonal debut from post eight and finished seventh, but was beaten by only 2-1/2 lengths as he closed with a :27 final quarter-mile.

“He drew the eight-hole, and it was really the toughest division on top of it,” Gingras said. “I took a look out of the gate, but they were leaving pretty hard. He had good pace in the stretch, just a wall of horses in front of him. I was really, really pleased with him.

“He’s got post seven this week, but he’s going to be more involved than last week. We’ll try to go forward and if that doesn’t work at least we should be able to get him out in the flow. It’s time to go.”

In the second division, Semi Tough will look to rebound from an eighth-place finish in round one. The 7-year-old led at the opening quarter from post three but dropped back from there.

Semi Tough delivered as the favorite in the first Open Handicap Pace of the 2023 Yonkers Raceway season. Mike Lizzi photo.

“He’s always a little bit lazy in the middle part of the race, so going up the backstretch I was thinking it was maybe just typical Semi Tough, but he didn’t respond,” Gingras said. “He’ll always pace the stretch and he didn’t. He wasn’t himself.”

On Monday, Semi Tough will start from post one and is co-second choice at 7-2 behind favorite Jimmy Freight at 5-2. Backstreet Shadow also is 7-2.

“I’ve seen him be not so good one week and really good the next,” Gingras said. “He’s got a good spot and he’s a good horse.”

Completing the Burke-Gingras quartet is Bee Two Bee, who finished sixth from post eight last week. This week, the 6-year-old starts from post three and is the 4-1 third choice behind first-round winner Lochinvar Art A at 9-5 and None Bettor A at 2-1.

“He actually was really good,” Gingras said. “I went up the inside with him and it didn’t open up until late. I never really got to let him pace. He’s ready. I don’t know if he can win the final, but he’s a horse that can make some money in the legs. This week I think is one of them. I think he’s in a good spot and I’ll see what we can do. I like him. He’s a big strong horse and he tries. He’s not out of place in this series.”

The top-eight horses at the completion of the series’ five preliminary legs are eligible to advance to the Borgata final on April 24 at Yonkers. Horses receive 50 points for winning, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. In addition, all starters in each round receive 25 points.

Racing begins at 7 p.m. EDT at Yonkers. For free TrackMaster past performances, visit the Standardbred Owners Association of New York website here.

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